Review of Gravity, the movie, discussions. Reply

I ran into a show of Gravity, the 2013 3-D space based movie, by a dint of coincidence. Couple times I ran on the web into contrary arguments on the quality of this movie so I am writing this article, to place one of the discussion into book-keeping, since the other discussion is not in possession. (movie perhaps comes from motion+view? Yes.)

Two other reviews, by Apollo 13 author and by actual astronaut, picked by coincidence of searching space debris

1. Before or After reading my take on this awesome space 3-D movie, Gravity, you may also wanna hook up to what someone who wrote the book on which movie Apollo 13 was created, expounds. He points out the silliness and the technical inefficiencies in the movie, but gives it the rating that it deserves: “Gravity will wind you up and wring you out as only the best thrillers do. Absolute technical accuracy matters—except when it doesn’t. Gravity gets a well-earned waiver.”

2. And this one, read this nice commentary, by an actual astronaut, 3 space walks under his belt. He points out some inaccuracies, but goes with rating: All of these inaccuracies were done to help advance the plot or to add drama to the film which is exactly the artistic license we should be willing to grant the filmmakers. This is entertainment, not a documentary. … It’s just a movie – and a very good one.

In October Last year (2013) I was waiting for my bus trip, from Bangalore to Vijayawada, which is a good old 20 hour bus trip; to be followed by my reserved Bhubaneswar bound train trip. The trip was a hassle, saves up-to the Vijayawada bus stop, because the trains were canceled or detoured etc, due to the imminent Phailin cyclone storm. Needless to say I had to travel by inconvenient commuting from Vijayawada to Bhubaneswar, coming through Berhampur and seeing nature’s fury in belated action. But what strikes me is it takes a few minutes to realize, when I would ever recall, seeing the movie Gravity, by accident, I also traveled for over a day with such natural disturbances.

But how did I run into Gravity, the movie? Well in Bangalore, I had a long gap between my bus trip and when I was up at the bus stop. The Auto driver suggested me if I could spend time in the Gopalan mall. Since, the mall has a facility to keep your luggage, if you are to see a movie or buy something, I thought thats the only way to stay put for hours, and I did. See, I could not even put my luggage in the private bus tour operator, so I had to take an auto-cab to the mall, which is a god old 4/5 kms. So my luggage was in the baggage area and I rushed into the movie complex. I see Gravity and say to myself, certainly it would be nice to see something by that name. Physics Connection. And I did. At the entrance to the movie, I say where is the 3-D goggles? The man says, deposit 200 INR. So, I was like, I should be warned before buying the ticket, no? A gentleman, 50-some, comes close and whispers, its to be refunded, when goggles is returned. I quip “fair enough”, such schemes are to prevent people from throwing off or taking the goggles, as a matter of prank or vandalism. Happens a lot perhaps.

So, I am inside the movie, enjoying; the visual, must be pronounced, was amazing. The last time I was seeing a 3-D movie, before this, which was not a science based movie anyway, till the interval, I am asking myself, why the things don’t come to me? The hero is hitting the villain like anything, I think the Telugu movie, total action packed movie, but I am not seeing anything; up close. So I realize, the polarization of the goggles is off. Its the polarization property of the goggles * which renders everything 3-D. Thats as much as I can tell you now. In the interval I changed the goggles. Now the Hero flies towards me and right in-front of me, kicks the chin, of the bad guys. It also helps when the actress comes closer. I was missing all this for more than 1 hour.

* See, light is a polarized wave, that is, it has a sense of direction associated with it, where one direction is one; in which light travels, another direction or plane is; where light is created. For this reason; light is called a transverse wave. eg A sound wave is not a transverse wave, its whats called a longitudinal wave, as the disturbance, ripple or the waves, traverse alongside the same direction in which the sound wave is created. So there are two kinds of wave; transverse and longitudinal. Light is a transverse or 3-Dimensional wave. Longitudinal waves are 1-dimensional, example being, as I just said, sound or pressure waves. But when a wave is 3-Dimensional, such as creation (in a plane, 2 dimensions) and propagation (in a direction, transverse to a plane where light was created, hence called transverse wave, 1 dimension) of light, this property can be exploited to give an impression of 3-Dimensional-movie.

So this time, from the beginning, the 3-D goggle is working, I already prepared myself, from last experience; to change the goggles if the polarization is not working. I watched and enjoyed the movie. Needless to say the visual was awesome. But two times, I came across contrary opinions to this awesome movie, which happens for various reasons, if we are to see why such a vibe can be possible, of-course personal taste is one reason. Another reason would be why good stuff are often rated badly; financial interest.

But we shall also go with a purview, if a good thing is fortunate, as is Sandra Bullock when we recovered her from a total space crash, for about an hour, it will go with much much good rating, than the very small fraction bad rating. This movie Gravity is above 95% “good” movie with a big profit, when a 100 million dollar movie produces billions of dollars in revenue, you know you have made it. If there are creepy things it will not surpass the democratic litmus taste. As for financial litmus, one shall see what was spent and what was the gain. If one spends 2 billion and gains 3 billions, its not a great movie, by default, it could be, but not exclusively by financial index. If one spends 100 million dollars only, compared to several billion dollars gain? Amazing democratic support.

While I came across Neil De Grass Tyson’s criticism *, ( — after I had my discussions on Sean’s original blog, on a particle physics documentary, ) about the space craft, being in different orbit parameter, than Hubble Space Telescope orbital parameter, such makes the commuting between the two IMPOSSIBLE, I think its way overboard. why? Because for a movie we can always make the parameter coincide with each other. I am not saying a 125 kms difference between the two orbit’s apogee is collapsed into zero. I am saying we can have an imaginary HST or an imaginary ISS satellite which have the closely matching parameters such as plane of orbit, being same.

A thing can just fell from HST and come close to ISS satellite, in the movie, and dexterity as shown in the movie can bring the astronauts safely into the module. Whats so impossible about it? In any-case if just things falling off the distant satellite (~560 kms) towards the closer-to-earth space-craft ( ~420 kms), is concerned; the orbital plane inclinations also won’t matter. These are arbitrary concerns. Taking the entertainment out of a movie and depicting it as a documentary that must bring every tiny technical critical assessment of space based movie would render it into one of those religiosity driven criticism of intelligence design in school texts. Because as far as educating is concerned, people can educate themselves in a 30 hours of space museum or 3 weeks of Astrology Symposium perhaps.

A 1.5 hours, well made, critically acclaimed and praised movie, does a far better impact in attracting science aspirants, and awakens interest in science; in far more a science hungry society of today than I would like to believe otherwise. The visuals are so stunning, it depicts what goes on around in ISS level, with its risk and excitement in such a marvelous way. And especially when there are not many that are made like this. I have seen Apollo 13, in 2004, I owned a DVD of the movie, its an amazing movie, and I am not aware of its technical inaccuracies, not because it won’t have such, but because its unnecessary to be so thread bare for an otherwise astounding movie, because internet criticism itself is often riddled with far more inaccuracies.

You will see when I point out my discussions, below, how we can have inaccurate depictions of technical aspects, ourselves, while trying to portray our concerns about inaccuracies of another. But remember the criticism towards moon-landing, a large number of people would believe such criticism, which are totally like religiosity based apocalypse and driven by a mentality to spread dark knowledge. We indeed landed on moon, like we found the internal structure of atom. There are a lot of literature of pseudo science out there which makes us believe otherwise.

In any case, I also like, for such movies to be made in Particle Physics (High Energy Physics) so that a massive popularity can be brought towards such frontiers of science, in the world. On one hand it also takes care of the inaccuracies spread out by individuals in the making of science popularization paradigms. A great deal of team work in making Particle Physics flicks will bring an unprecedented amount of insight and recurring discussion of the conceptual, hitherto unseen. It also takes away a burden from the hearts and minds of teachers of Physics who have to do an unimaginable amount of labor to popularize and quell fears towards Science in general and Physics in particular, especially at elementary level. Science Awareness better be taken on a grand scale, than a shy aloof unnecessary evil replaces our modern needs for science awareness.

So here I am appending my online gravity opinions.


Comments from different people have been highlighted by block letters. So long comments are merely following the block-letters until the next block letters, which is a comment from another member. Please note that only gravity based duel is reproduced here. For all comments and the original article by Sean, follow the link. 

MD; Thank you for sharing. We need longer movies. Like Gravity, perhaps, 3-D commercial movies.

@MD I really do not think we need movies like Gravity.

While visually stunning it is also very inaccurate and unrealistic. I don’t think it helps to awaken interest in science, it trivializes space and science. And to think that at the end they want to give an Oscar to Mrs. Bullock for her “performance” is just ridiculous. Potatoes boiling in the kitchen pot show more emotions …

@RD I would totally like to believe, your take on this movie gravity is more educating. I haven’t read any online review.

But I have couple points,

1. We don’t make much good science movies, that inspires to look beyond, Gravity is one among these, it brings space sojourns much more vividly than most. What I am saying there is not many science movies out there (that perhaps I have seen) Apollo is very good one I have seen. Also the first 3-D I saw on rocket launching to space, is from 2002, in Smithsonian Museum, D.C. That was also quite so inspiring.

2. The inaccuracy you are speaking of, I must confess I would not be taken off my feet with some gross errors, in the movie, since I may not have listened everything as keenly, taken up by the intensity of visuals. But I remember one fact, that concerns, Physics, the roughly 50000 miles an hour (correct?) speed of ISS level debris that was coming, it set me thinking, are they violating the Relativistic Laws? For a while, and then I realize its per hour, not second, (that later would be grossly incorrect, 50 K miles / sec would violate Relativity certainly) that comes out to be 20 km/sec and thats perfectly enough close to what sort of speed, earth, moon, any satellite are typically found with, in our Sun’s Gravity. (in free fall) Even Rocket’s launching requires escape velocity. 11.2 km/sec. So they have clearly done their research on the Physics, as far as I could get in that moment. (I had to rush for a 20 hrs bus trip, right after this, so I was also kind of trip-worried)

Give me please one example of inaccuracy, (its possible they have done, but I have missed, or unaware).

Gravity is Certainly better than most movies out there (eg sci-fi and gadget crap trying to tell us science in modern age is totally my anti-favorite, I tend to believe, they mislead the concurrent younger generation about what science really is) and in particle physics there aren’t many (or even one movie I know of that has been made) .

Of-course if there are inaccuracies (which is quite so possible) we must find and elucidate. Thanks though (I came across couple students of mine, young people, they didn’t like Gravity, but internet age, we generate more vicious vibes about something if it does not satisfy our monetary interest).

@MD Here are just a few examples:

Houston telling the Astronauts that a shot down satellite in Low Earth Orbit will cut off communications. Communication satellites are in a geostationary orbit at altitudes around 34-36 thousand kilometers.

Sandra Bullock returns from a spacewalk and is immediately ready for action after taking her spacesuit off, while in reality you would need several hours for various reasons.

Sandra Bullock SWIMMING out the capsule after reentry. Show me one astronaut who can stand on his legs without help after being in space for a longer period of time.

The Hubble Space Telescope and the ISS are in very different orbits. NO chance getting from one to the other. Not even with whatever George Clooney was buzzing around, clearly some futuristic jet-pack thing which isn’t realistic in the slightest, not only the device itself but the way he moves.

George and Sandra slamming into the ISS after he rescued her. Broken bones IF NOT DEATH certain, and this wasn’t the only scene where someone crushes at high speeds into something.

We’ve all seen Chris Hadfield crying in space, and it doesn’t look anything like in the movie.

Apparently they encounter the debris every 90 minutes which would give the impression that the ISS takes 90 minutes to make one trip around the earth which is wrong. The debris they encounter is in fact stationary, it is the ISS that is flying into the orbit of the debris so they would have to account for the speed of the ISS.

Out in space without a visor to protect your eyes from sunlight? Immediate death sentence for your eyes.

Those are the things I noticed, but I guess there are plenty of smarter than me people who will probably point out more things that are just wrong.

That being said, I still enjoyed the movie, I just do not think it is very educational.
I guess that is what happens if you have some interest in science, it PARTIALLY ruins movies for you because you pick up on things that won’t let you fully immerse in the movie.

@RD. Let me make sense of your comments, as it occurred to me.

1. I like to point out many comments made by you, that are technically misleading or incorrect. After I mention the following point, 2.

2. The context in which we can look at such movies (specifically gravity):

A. its a science-movie which is B. (i) reasonably fair movie vs (ii) the best movie vs (iii) totally trash movie.

My point was B(i) while you seem to be up with B(iii).

Also for A. a hero in a movie gets up from bullet injuries and vanquishes the opponents and goes on totally unrealistic stunts. The science based “movie” and “documentary” are two different things. Movie: entertaining. Science: educating. I enjoyed that aspect, a movie is not only education, but also an entertainment and there is a very good trade-off b/w these two.

To say in a movie an astronaut can’t get up as soon as she falls off on earth, is also to say she can’t survive the shell catching fire on reentry, but she did. Sounds to me that miraculously she escapes, and thats the theme of the movie, apart from showing visuals of what sort of situations await on the space based actions. Also she did not suffer major injuries so she could get up pretty soon. Plus she descended by parachute and fell off in water. There was just no major explicit injury although only luck was favorable.

Not everything in science is totally realistic, either. Recently Hawking is calling Black-holes as grey holes and abandoning the idea of event horizon, which have been cornerstones of cosmology for 4 decades. So science is a refinement and if there are not totally invalid facts, the movie is fine.

Now let me clarify the remark 1.

Example of technically misleading comments;

ISS is based on a short altitude orbit. ~400 kms above earth. Geostationary above 22000 kms, hence your point: 30000 kms is correct about Geostationary, but what about ISS which is quite short altitude?

ISS is 425 kms orbit vs Hubble Space Telescope 560 kms, a mere 125 kms difference. You have to substantiate why there is no chance of getting from one to the other given 100 kms in space in free-fall is quite nothing given we are falling at 15-20 km/second or similar speed. That takes merely 10 seconds.

Slamming onto something in free fall. Barely much impact. Possible and highly probable. (considering two objects with similar speed won’t impact each other much, in all possible kind of collisions, but below: thats not true for debris because there is massive speed difference between debris and space-ship and astronaut.)

Encountering debris. No its not one full circle around earth. Its just debris, comes from any direction at any time. That was quite clear in the movie. Plus: such debris was said to be 50000 miles an hour which is, I calculated after the movie, 22 kms/sec, given the space ship may be at 10 or 12 km/sec in the orbit, this would mean still a surplus 10 km/sec object hitting the space ship or astronaut. Thats too dangerous. Clearly the movie folks have researched a lot of technicalities.

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